Not far from the resort town of Taormina and the slopes of Mount Etna is a stunning gorge formed by the hundreds of lava flows with which Etna has gifted the surrounding areas. The walls of the gorge reminded me of my mother's pottery studio - the pile of discarded clay that was thrown on piece by piece until she had created a multi-layered ceramic checkerboard. These towering walls, amazingly, were home to small cacti growing between the cracks.
|Cactus growing on the walls of the gorge.|
The gorge, or gole in Italian, has 4 hiking trails. Nick and I took the shortest one, about 1.5 km. It was a roasting hot day, when we were there - 38 degrees Celcius. As we walked along the pathways, I found myself grateful for the shade along the path and also for the occasional 'mister' that sprayed cool water over us. The path took us to lovely viewpoints that gave us glimpses of the river below.
After a nice lunch, we took the elevator down to the river beach. (Yes, an elevator!). The edge of the river was filled with people - elderly nonnas with their toddler grandchildren in tow, young German women sunbathing topless, middle-aged British men in baggy shorts, Italian men strutting in speedos with gold chains tangled in their chest hair, and shapely young Italian women with perfect make-up and perfect hair wearing brightly coloured bikinis.
As we made our way down to the river's edge there was a large sign written in Italian, English, German and Spanish warning us that the river was frigidly cold and we should only spend a few minutes in the water. I stepped in the water. While chilly, it was most definitely not frigid. I grew up on the mountains to the north of downtown Vancouver, Canada. I spent my summers swimming in the snow run-off in Lynn Canyon. The water here in the gorge was not so cold.
Nick and I made our way to a little beach in the shade of the tall walls. While he sat on the beach, I walked against the current as far up the river as I was allowed to go before I hit the river rapids. The walls of the gorge rose up on each side like the dome of a cathedral. The only sound was the echo of the rushing of the water. There was a nearly spiritual feel to the place and I felt my cheeks start to hurt, I was grinning so hard at this amazing experience. Everyone I passed who was walking the other way in the river had the same grin and was sharing the same experience.
I probably stayed in the water for over an hour. It was a magical day. Both Nick and I left feeling that it was an afternoon well spent, although I must admit, I suspect one reason Nick was so pleased with the day had something to do with the topless sunbathers!